Development of a process for characterization of Nd:YAG crystals Public
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The objectives of this thesis were to develop a methodology for the measurement of laser beam characteristics from a single cavity laser and to establish a preliminary guideline that would determine which crystals were acceptable for use in production of laser devices. These objectives were achieved by developing the experimental procedures and by statistical analysis of the data obtained. However, additional future work is needed to independently confirm the results of this thesis. Efficient and reliable operation of a lamp-pumped Nd:YAG laser is highly dependent on the crystal from which the beam is derived. However little attention is given to the quality of the laser beam produced by each crystal. Although many factors influence the output beam, the power dependent focal length is of particular importance. Unfortunately, direct measurement of the crystal focal length is not possible with a Nd:YAG laser beam. This is because the single cavity laser functions as both a resonator and amplifier simultaneously. Therefore, a method was developed that measured the caustic of the laser beam after it had emerged from the resonator and been focused by means of a focusing element. The caustic of the beam was analyzed utilizing a beam analyzer that calculated the beam focusability factor and the beam waist size. From this information, the waist diameter at the outcoupler mirror was calculated using Gaussian beam propagation principles. A resonator model was developed based on the self-repeating ABCD matrix that allowed for the determination of the induced thermal lens based on the input power. Several approaches to model the thermal lensing effect were taken, each with increasing complexity. As a result, three parameters were evaluated with the intention of using one or more as a means to classify good and bad crystals. They were the crystal sensitivity factor, the beam focusability factor, and the beam waist size at the measurement plane. Calculation of the crystal sensitivity factor, M^-1, was based on the developed resonator model and numerous approximations of the crystal behavior. Thus, after calculating the M-1 factor as a function of input power, no distinguishable pattern was seen. However, the beam focusability factor and the beam size, both showed distinct regions that separate good and bad crystals. Statistical analysis performed on the data supports a preliminary conclusion that these two parameters may be used as a quality control measure. These parameters are measured using existing internationally accepted procedures and are therefore the best currently available tools for determination of the quality of Nd:YAG crystals.
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